Email interview with John Hackett and Nick Fletcher conducted by Alan Hewitt.
TWR: Why another album of Baroque music?
JH: I’ve always felt a great affinity to Baroque music. I think it goes back to growing up when my brother Steve would alternate listening to his blues albums with recordings of the harpsichord sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti or Segovia playing Bach . There is a tremendous rhythmic vitality to much of the music of that era. Once I got into flute playing, I discovered the flute concertos of Vivaldi and the flute works of J.S. Bach . The style can at times be compared to perpetual motion where the lines just keep going. You can hear it very clearly in the second movement of the Bach C major Sonata. It has parallels with some progressive music. It is great working with a virtuoso like Nick who has the technique you need for this kind of very demanding music. We’ve enjoyed performing these pieces with our flute and guitar duo so it seemed right to want to record them.
NF: John and myself have always had an interest and appreciation of Baroque music, particularly the music of J.S. Bach and Handel. The music is very contrapuntal in nature, which suits the polyphonic nature of the guitar and in conjunction with the sinuous and elegant lines of the flute makes the perfect musical combination. I think playing music you love is so important to the performance and John is always a very inspiring musician to work with and this is especially evident in the Baroque repertoire which I think John is brilliant at interpreting.
TWR: How easy is it to transcribe this music for your respective instruments?
NF: We didn’t have to transcribe the music as most of it was originally written for the flute and the guitar parts were already transcribed which made my life much easier!
JH: Yes, these pieces were all written originally for flute, the only exception being the Bach Organ Trio. This did prove a bit of a challenge as the flute part leaps about in big intervals which is much easier to do on a keyboard. There are plenty of fine recordings out there of the pieces on this album in their original form with flute and keyboard but Nick’s playing has such warmth and expression that I was excited about showing the music in a different light in much the same way as Steve and I had done with the Sketches of Satie album. I’m not necessarily saying our versions are better than the versions for flute and harpsichord but they do give a different take on the music and it is a credit to the various people who made the excellent transcriptions.
TWR: Were the recordings done in isolation due to lockdown? Did that present any problems to either of you?
NF: No, we did these live together before lockdown so it was relatively easy to record.
JH: We regularly record our rehearsal sessions for concerts in the hope that we might get some good material for album releases. I’d had these performances sitting around “in the can “ (I hope our American friends don’t misunderstand that explanation ) as it were , for some time. So when lockdown hit and I’d finished recording my completely solo project The Piper Plays His Tune, it seemed an ideal time to at last go back to those flute and guitar recordings to see what might be useable. I was thrilled to discover how good some of those sessions had been. It’s funny how it can be difficult as a musician to judge the worth of what you are doing at the time.
TWR: Tell us a little about the pieces and why you chose them.
NF: We chose this set of pieces because we both felt very close to the material. The melodies are glorious and the transcriptions for the guitar parts were very well done. John suggested the ‘Goldfinch’ by Antonio Vivaldi as I had not heard of it before. My knowledge of Vivaldi’s music was his violin repertoire rather than his flute concertos. It’s a wonderful concerto but playing all the orchestral parts on the guitar was a bit of a challenge but very rewarding to play.
JH: The pieces on this album are the most difficult technically that I have ever recorded. The Bach C major sonata with its relentless pace in the second movement is one every self- respecting classical flute player has to negotiate-I couldn’t have done it justice when I was younger . But, of course, ultimately it’s not about technique but about the quality of the music. . What I would say about technically difficult music though is it helps keep you on your toes when it comes to playing progressive rock. With the John Hackett Band we usually finish with Red Hair which is heavily influenced by the flute concertos of Vivaldi. I couldn’t play Red Hair if I hadn’t spent so much of my time playing Vivaldi’s music. Most people will know the Four Seasons but the Goldfinch flute concerto is also very melodic and at the same time rhythmically very exciting. In fact, with the exception of the Bach trio, I have been playing all the pieces on the album since I was a teenager so it felt a good time to finally record them!
TWR: Future plans?
NF: We hope to do some performing to promote the recording and maybe another recording could be forthcoming. Our previous two albums had a mixture of repertoire so who knows what we will do next. Hopefully we can build on this recording, which I think is our best yet.
JH: Immediate plans are centred around the John Hackett Band with gigs kicking off in December, then more regularly, with some festivals throughout 2022. . But Nick and I maintain our passion for both rock and classical music and in many ways, they feed off each other . When you have compositions of the quality on this album, you can always see new things in the music and try to improve your own performance next time round.